Destroying the Village: Eisenhower and Thermonuclear War

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Overview

Thanks to recently declassified government documents from the early Cold War era, Craig is able to investigate what America's strategists really thought about the viability of nuclear warfare. He demonstrates that even as they were publicly attempting to make nuclear war technically feasible, many Pentagon officials were privately pessimistic regarding any nuclear strategy. Craig probes the heated arguments Eisenhower had with his national security advisors, and shows how the president conspired to make the option of war with the Soviet Union impossible.

"Campbell Craig's Destroying the Village is not just painstakingly researched and intellectuallly acute; it resonates with a subtle, irnoic moral understanding which is no less powerful for being quiet and controlled. The reader asks, did we actually live through so preposterous a scene and accept it as our due? The book answers, no matter how unbelievably, we did. This is electric reading. Not to be missed. (Paul Fussell, author of The Great War and Modern Memory )

"Destroying the Village is a wonderful book. Drawing on recently declassified documents, Campbell Craig offers a penetrating analysis of what he argues was Eisenhower's high-risk strategy of making global thermonuclear war unthinkable by eliminating all the intermediate steps that he believed would escalate to the ultimate holocaust once the hostilities began. This beautifully written, and lucidly organized book offers new perspectives on strategic thinking during the Cold War's most dangerous phase, and illuminates our understanding of the often tense relations between Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, andpowerful figures in the Pentagon. This is a must read for anyone interested in policy debates that, in the last analysis, involved nothing less than the fate of the earth." (Paul Boyer, author of By the Bomb's Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. )

"Campbell Craig has written a fresh and compelling study of American nuclear strategy in the depths of the Cold War. While most studies follow the themes of deterrence, massive retaliation and mutual assured destruction, Craig highlights the often overlooked theme of evasion. This is a wonderful history of ideas, and of the men whose moral and ethical principles provided much needed restraint in a time of confrontation, urgency, and anxiety." (Joel H. Rosenthal, President, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs)


"Drawing on voluminous and recently released archives, Craig insightfully traces the evolution of Eisenhower's thinking about the unthinkable. The light he sheds on such illustrative episodes of brinksmanship as the Taiwan Straight and Berlin crises is most welcome; the dichotomy he establishes between the views of Eisenhower and Dulles is most revealing. Anyone interested in U.S. nuclear strategy, or what Craig appropriately calls the strategy of nuclear evasion, will find this book both challenging and indispensable."
(Richard H. Immerman, Editor of John Foster Dulles and the Diplomacy of the Cold War )

Campbell Craig does an impressive job of setting the historical record straight in his interesting and well-documented first book. (Steven W. Hook, Kent State University)

The strength of this book is its marshaling of fresh material to support a bold interpretation of an important subject. Students of the Eisenhower years will have to take note of both the book and the author. (H.W. Brands, Texas A&M University)

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American Studies - Ian Jackson

This is a highly commendable study...It will be essential reading.

Journal of American History
The strength of this book is its marshaling of fresh material to support a bold interpretation of an important subject. Students of the Eisenhower years will have to take note of both the book and the author.

— H.W. Brands, Texas A&M University

H-Net Reviews
Campbell Craig does an impressive job of setting the historical record straight in his interesting and well-documented first book.

— Steven W. Hook, Kent State University

Journal of American Studies
This is a highly commendable study...It will be essential reading.

— Ian Jackson

Journal of American History - H.W. Brands

The strength of this book is its marshaling of fresh material to support a bold interpretation of an important subject. Students of the Eisenhower years will have to take note of both the book and the author.

H-Net Reviews - Steven W. Hook

Campbell Craig does an impressive job of setting the historical record straight in his interesting and well-documented first book.

Paul Fussell
Campbell Craig's Destroying the Village is not just painstakingly researched and intellectuallly acute; it resonates with a subtle, ironic moral understanding which is no less powerful for being quiet and controlled. The reader asks, did we actually live through so preposterous a scene and accept it as our due? The book answers, no matter how unbelievably, we did. This is electric reading. Not to be missed.
Paul Boyer
"Destroying the Village is a wonderful book. Drawing on recently declassified documents, Campbell Craig offers a penetrating analysis of what he argues was Eisenhower's high-risk strategy of making global thermonuclear war unthinkable by eliminating all the intermediate steps that he believed would escalate to the ultimate holocaust once the hostilities began. This beautifully written, and lucidly organized book offers new perspectives on strategic thinking during the Cold War's most dangerous phase, and illuminates our understanding of the often tense relations between Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, and powerful figures in the Pentagon. This is a must read for anyone interested in policy debates that, in the last analysis, involved nothing less than the fate of the earth.
Joel H. Rosenthal
Campbell Craig has written a fresh and compelling study of American nuclear strategy in the depths of the Cold War. While most studies follow the themes of deterrence, massive retaliation and mutual assured destruction, Craig highlights the often overlooked theme of evasion. This is a wonderful history of ideas, and of the men whose moral and ethical principles provided much needed restraint in a time of confrontation, urgency, and anxiety.
Richard H. Immerman
Drawing on voluminous and recently released archives, Craig insightfully traces the evolution of Eisenhower's thinking about the unthinkable. The light he sheds on such illustrative episodes of brinksmanship as the Taiwan Straight and Berlin crises is most welcome; the dichotomy he establishes between the views of Eisenhower and Dulles is most revealing. Anyone interested in U.S. nuclear strategy, or what Craig appropriately calls the strategy of nuclear evasion, will find this book both challenging and indispensable.
Steven W. Hook
Campbell Craig does an impressive job of setting the historical record straight in his interesting and well-documented first book.
H.W. Brands
The strength of this book is its marshaling of fresh material to support a bold interpretation of an important subject. Students of the Eisenhower years will have to take note of both the book and the author.
David Hendrickson
"A harrowing account of the early years of American nuclear strategy, this book offers an unconventional defense of President Dwight Eisenhower. Craig, a diplomatic historian, challenges scholars who have depicted the early Cold War as an era of exceptional stability. The avoidance of nuclear war in that era, he plausibly insists, was indeed a close call.
At the core of the book is the long-running debate between advocates of "massive retaliation" and "flexible response." Eisenhower's conviction, fortified by his reading of Clausewitz, was that war with the Soviet Union could not remain limited. His antagonists, including Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, objected to the choice between 'holocaust and humiliation' that such an all-or-nothing policy entailed.
Craig provides a solid assessment of the policies of 'war-avoidance' that resulted from Eisenhower's acute understanding of the folly of thermonuclear war, but he does not satifactorily refute advocates of flexible response. There was no necessary connection, as he implies, between a military strategy that recognized gradations of conflict and a diplomacy that was extravagant and risky." November/December issue of Foreign Affairs
Booknews
Craig (diplomatic history, U. of Hawaii-Manoa) gives the total warrior of World War II credit for avoiding nuclear war during his term as US president. Eisenhower, he says, was personally horrified by the prospect and steered a cautious course that would prevent or mitigate conflict without letting hard-liners convince the nation that he was soft on communism. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
H. W. Brands
...a bold interpretation of an important subject. Students of the Eisenhower years will have to take note of both the book and the author.
Journal of American History
Gregg Herken
...brief but brilliant...an example of the best of this post-Cold War scholarship.
American Historical Review
Robert Divine
Campbell Craig offers a fascinating and persuasive analysis of Dwight D. Eisenhower's seemingly senseless nuclear policy.
Political Science Quarterly
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Campbell Craig is a lecturer in American History and Foreign Policy at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch New Zealand.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Basic Security Policy 1
Pt. 1 Eisenhower's Predicament
1 Casus Belli in Berlin, 1948 13
2 General War Becomes Thermonuclear War, 1948-1952 24
Pt. 2 Eisenhower's Strategy to Evade Nuclear War
3 The Rise and Fall of Massive Retaliation, January 1953-July 1955 41
4 Eisenhower Takes Over, July 1955-April 1957 53
5 Fallout, April 1957-November 1958 71
6 Berlin, November 1958-July 1959 90
7 Intermission, July 1959-January 1961 108
Pt. 3 Aftershock
8 Berlin Looms Again, January-July 1961 121
9 The Wall and the Prospect of War, August-October 1961 137
Epilogue: McNamara's Dialectic 152
Notes 163
Bibliography 197
Index 209
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